Monday, October 19, 2009

Emily Gomez Experiment #11 Comparing Starbucks and Local Coffee Houses

This was an experiment that hit close to home. I’ve worked in a local, independent coffee house for a few years, and within that time, a starbucks emerged about four miles away. My town is a major tourist town, where the international sign of Starbucks catches the eyes of those from out of town faster than the small cottage off the road. I interviewed one of the Duck’s Cottage employees regarding social capital and the differences between the international competetor and the independent coffee house.

1. How has starbucks affected the business at duck’s cottage economically and socially?
I really don’t know if it has actually. Allen has had such a good following with people that come down every single year and they come back every year. Same repeat customers. And starbucks is really far away from us, well, it’s actually not that far, but people arent traveling out of their way to go. I don’t think people have bypassed us to go to Starbucks, except the few people who are looking especially for a frappuccino. You can’t convince them that anything is better than a frappuccino, so they’re going to jump in the car and go to Starbucks.
2. What are some major differences between Starbucks and Duck’s Cottage?
Oh my gosh. Personality, uniqueness, gosh so many words come to mind on that one . that was pretty easy. The people are usually pretty friendly in a starbucks but you’ve got just a unique sense of everything in here. You go in and everything looks the same, and it is. I guesss they have to to be a chain like that, but theres that stale sense of everything being the same. Everyone loves the feeling of Duck’s Cottage. They love the old building. This is the only one. I guess that goes to the question of how that will affect stores like this. You’d think that people would want to come and spend a little bit more than on amazon. They’d want to support the little guy.
3. Do you have regular customers? Would you say you know them pretty well? How do you think this impacts social interaction within our community.
Oh gosh yes. There are people who have been coming in since the doors opened. WE can recognize people who come in all the time, especially people who live here and have been coming in the entire 8 years we’ve been open. Even new people, we see them and they’re like “we just came here last year,” and they comeback again. And as for social interaction, you have Allen, who’s part of the fire department. A lot of the people in the community come in here to talk, giving this place the feel of what a coffee house should be. This isn’t a cafĂ© where you’re sitting and staring at a computer. People learn about eachother. They sit and talk and learn about what’s going on in the community.

Is Starbucks really harmful to our society? I went to two different starbucks over the weekend to investigate. Though they’re definitely not original, their interior design is horrifyingly monotonous, and their coffee is somewhat bitter, I don’t believe that Starbucks contributes to lower social interaction between humans in most circumstances. However, the interaction between service and the customer isnt as up to par as it should be. Regarding Duck’s Cottage though, they do battle a corporation that not only harms the store socially, but economically as well. Major book sellers harm the small independent coffee/book store.
The ever popular “usual” coffee drink prevents people from communicating at starbucks. You don’t have to think about what you want because it’s always the same. You know if you want “tall,” “grande,” or “venti,” and you know if you want “breve,” or “skinny.” At Duck’s cottage, people often ask, “what’s a mucky duck?” well, for the uneducated coffee drinker, that’s espresso and steamed milk with chocolate, hazelnut, and caramel syrups. There is more interaction between the customers.
Then there’s the topic of uniqueness. Duck’s Cottage wins hands down. It’s an old hunting lodge that was turned into a coffee shop eight years ago. At every starbucks you can find the same paintings, the same advertisements, and the same pastries. There is very little difference between the starbucks in New York City and in Des Moines, Iowa.
However, Starbucks is still a coffee shop, which is always a center of human interaction. No matter where you go, you’ll end up with a place to sit and chat with a warm (though in some cases bitter) cup of coffee. As far as social capital goes, starbucks have actually made it more convienient for people to meet and talk. It’s not starbucks itself though. If every starbucks in NYC became an independent coffee house, I believe there would be just as much interaction between people.
Duck’s Cottage is also a book store. Not only do they compete with large coffee house chains like starbucks, they also have to compete with corporations like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It’s easier to buy books online for a cheaper price than to go to a local store and not know if they have what you’re looking for. However, that person fails to interact with their local book store. This is one way social capital has decreased due to major corporations and the internet.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

American Vacations

Once upon a time in the mid to late 1900's family time was valued to the fullest, the typical Americans would spend their time bonding and communicating with each other. Family vacations would make this possible, a perfect time to relax and enjoy the pleasures of company.

Today our American society has drastically changed it's focus. Our values have shifted from family to work. The average American is a workaholic, but not usually by choice. Many factors come into play when discussing the reasons why our soiety has changed. The economy and technology are the big two. Most "family vacations" are not vacations at all.

Below are a series of interviews, asking three working husbands about their annual vacations.

Husband #1-Douglas Chittenden

Occupation-Vice President of TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing Inc.

Husband#2-Thomas Chittenden

Occupation- Microbiologist

Huband#3-Jim Flynn

Occupation- Engineer

How many vacations do you take a year?

Two vacations

Three vacations

Three vacations

Do you find yourself continuing to work on vacations? If so Why?

Yes, it is a high level job that comes with a lot of responsibilities.

Occasionally, there is always technology around me such as, computers(emails) and cell phones(emails)

But it also applies to the nature of the work

Yes, because of the demands of the job, and me thinking that the company cannot go on without me.

How long are your vacations? How many paid vacations days due you receive per year?

One to Two weeks, 35 paid vacation days a year

Usually two weeks or less, 25 paid vacation days a year

A week, 5 weeks of paid vacation days a year

Have the amount of your vacations changed over the years?

The company changes it's vacation policies do to the economy, our vacations are a direct effect of the economy.


Vacations have decreased due to college expansives of three children and the busy family schedules.

Recently is it harder to take time off? If so why?

Yes, business more competitive and difficult

Yes, short of staff due to economy

Yes, family expensives

Have people’s vacations reflected a change in American values?

People are working hard than they use to, focusing on work more than family

Less of a line between work and non-work

Yes, find more and more two parents working

Are you ever without your cell-phone?


Sometimes, when I’m sleeping

Rarely, but when I don't have it, I am thinking about it

Would you rather live in another country with more paid vacation days?


No, I’d rather live in the same country that has more vacation days


According to the interviews above our society cannnot afford not to work. Even if some jobs offer more than 13 days of paid vacations, the individual hardly ever takes that to their advantage. Families have busier schedules, most households have both parents working. The idea of vacationing seems almost impossible to the typical American. But when the vacation is possible, it usually involves a constant amount of emails on a blackberry or laptop. It is easy to work during vaction because the communication is so accessible. In some cases, families spend more time talking on their cell-phones than talking to each other. The business world is extremely competitive now a days, and the line between work and non-work is rapidly disappearing.

In deciding what to do for my Commonweal Project, I concluded to spend my efforts in researching a particular passion of mine... that is friendship. I resolved to create my own survey of two different generations of women, to ask them the number of their close confidants, and then compare my findings with an NPR's interview with Lynn Smith-Lovin, of Duke University, on Social Isolation: Americans have fewer close confidants. To apply this study, I though I'd see how the statistics, proposed by Ms. Lynn Smith-Lovin, paralleled some of the women I knew across the country. Her findings are as followers: from the year 1985 to the present, the number of close confidants for the average American has dropped from 3 to 2. While Ms. Lynn-Smith-Lovin's statistics are based on time periods, my statistics are based on two different age groups of women across country.

Accordingly, I decided I'd team up with my mom to check the friend status of two different generations of women. Group 1, in the study, are women from age 35-55 (all mothers), and group 2 are High School/ College age women/girls 15-25 (none of which are mothers). My mom and I each interviewed 10 women from among our own acquaintances around the country. The representative sample came from 11 different states, including: OH, MI, CA, TX, CO, NY, TN, NC, MO, VA, and KY.
Each picture depicts, the tedious time spent in interviewing the twenty women, in asking two basic questions: "How many intimate friends, would you say you have?" and "What is the characteristic that you deem
most important in those friends?
When questioning group 2, I went a step further in asking how many
Facebook friends they had. I wanted to see if there was any correlation
between the broad number of Facebook friends and close confidants.
This would determine, for me, that the rise of connection to people through technology had an effect on the number of intimate friends people have. I desired a fresh perspective on the study of Ms. Lynn Smith-Lovin on the decline in intimate friends within
the past 34 years.... so my mom and I set out on this quest. Being the social optimists we are, we simply could not settle for this drastic decline and depressing statistic. For as the song goes "We all need somebody to lean on."

Here are our findings:
Group 1
Where # of Friends Why?
TX 7 Trust
OH 4 Being Trustworthy CA 4 Maturity Level
NC 5 Trust
MO 5 Trust
NC 4 Reliability That They Won't Gossip
TN 3 Must Be On The Same Page In Life
TX 4 Trust
KY 3 Trust
NC 5 Ability To Maintain Life Long Relationship

Group 2

Where? # Of Friends Why? # Facebook Friends
TN 4 Maturity/Connect no facebook
VA 3 Proven Loyalty 458
MI 3 Being Understanding 945
CA 3 Not Judgmental 250
MO 3 Personality/Connection 166
NC 4 Reliable/Proven--> Time 490
NC 4 Mutual Understanding 660
CL 4 Personal Loyalty 887
CA 4 Understanding/No Judgement 1,132
NY 1 Good Listener/"Hear Me Out" 190

In conclusion, I examined the contrast between Lynn Smith-Lovin's findings, from NPR's interview on Social Isolation: Americans have fewer close confidants, with my own. I take in account that my own study groups were all women, and from only 11 states, and only two different age groups, with separation of at the most 39 years. I found that older woman draw upon trust as their number one characteristic in a close confidant. Younger women draw more upon a mutual connection to a particular person, the personality connect, and the ability to rely on that friend to not judge them but listen to them with understanding. Although my numbers don't agree with the more prestigious study, I did find that from the group 1 to group 2 there was a 1 friend average decline (from 4.4 to 3.3). So maybe my mom and I have acquaintances that are a little more social than the average American, but I was still

disappointed with the results of decrease from one generation to the next. I also was surprised to find Ms. Lynn Smith-Lovin was correct when she said there was no found connection to the rise of technology to the number of close confidants, this corresponded to my question as to how many Facebook friends each of my interviewees had. Before my study I thought, the more Facebook friends a person would have the less close confidants they would have. I found this to be untrue, yet I see uphold the option that social networking (Twitter, Facebook, texting, email, im, Myspace,...etc.) generates an overall broad base of friendships instead of a small personal investment in deep relationships. Lastly, my one representative from NY, had the least amount of close confidants. I thought this intriguing since it is the most populated of the cities represented.

Ironically, this weekend when I went to church, and as part of the service they played this video on friendship, to show the importance of it in society.

The Amish don't know what they're missing

I practice something called lent every year. This is where you give up something for 40 days. I've been without hot dogs, my bike, TV, and even the computer, but never my cell phone. I thought being without my phone would be smooth sailing after all my practice. I was seriously mistaken. You never know how dependent you are on technology until it's not available to you. I realize that our particular generation's lives revolve around technology. Especially the cell phone. I never thought it was a big deal. Technology is so great if you ask me. It simplifies our lives. We are able to immediately connect to people with the click of a button. The real question is does that really connect us to each other or separate us. I have a chronic habit of playing brick breaker. All the time. I can do most anything while still playing my game. I have mastered the art of multi-tasking. This I must admit does take my attention away from the people around me. My undivided is never fully given. I cannot deny that my cell phone distracts me from living in the moment as well. Teenagers are so easily preoccupied with their next text or phone call. Does texting really count as a connection? It is convenient, but probably the lowest form of genuine communication.
I am sure I really listened to the people I talked to, was living in the present, and truly communicating with everyone I talked to while I was without my phone, but I recognized the inconvenience it caused me more so than the relationships I was cultivating. I never knew what time it was. Without one technology I would just have to replace it with another. I wasn't able to call my parents. I couldn't find where any of my friends were. So I have to conclude that without it I was equally separated as I am with it. Both scenarios have pros and cons. I myself have grown accustom to having a phone while the Amish have grown accustom to not having that type of communication. Which I find somewhat ironic because the Amish are trying to simplify their lives without technology. I think if they ever gave it a try they would realize the hassle their "simple" life is. My phone will continue to be my constant companion.